What the hell? Why not?: Intermittent Fasting

I looked at myself in the mirror a few weeks ago and only saw two abs peeking out of an otherwise flabby torso. Being that I’m from Los Angeles and therefore shallow, I launched into a panic. “Something’s gotta give,” I told myself.

Was the answer returning to the keto diet? Nah. As it turns out, I eat a lot of sandwiches and I just can’t sustain a diet that doesn’t allow me to eat an occasional cheese danish. Was the answer to reel in the beer intake? Well… No. There’s a lot of good reasons for that one, but no.

A couple of friends suggested intermittent fasting to me, and I thought it would be too hard given my varying late-night shifts, so initially I shrugged that one off. Also, I can be kind of a douchebag when I’m hungry, and I thought I’d just be starving and a dick (more than usual) all the time. Then more and more of the research I was doing pointed to its efficacy (I use the term “research” loosely here – I watch a lot of YouTube videos and read a lot of articles about health and fitness in my free time), so I opted to eat for an eight hour window each day and essentially just drink water (and maybe an alcoholic beverage or four) the remaining 16 hours.

When you fast for that long, your body produces similar amounts of ketones (the chemical produced by your liver that aid in metabolizing fatty acids) as it would if you were on the kind of semi-commital version of the keto diet I was on, and you can still eat pretty much whatever. When I wake up, I also have a cup of black coffee with unsalted butter and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which kicks up the ketones another notch. Most of the videos I’ve seen with strict keto advocates have a segment where they mutter something like, “Yeah, I guess you could just skip breakfast and achieve similar levels of ketosis, BUT” and then they go on to support their high-fat, low-carb diets.

I hit a tipping point and I’ve been doing this for a little over two weeks now. The first few days were rough, but after day three or four I settled into a comfortable space. My calorie consumption has stayed largely the same, though I admit it’s harder to cram a lot of food into an eight hour window without feeling like a fatass.

I’m fairly physically active, so I was concerned I’d see a dip in my energy and/or willingness to exercise, but I haven’t had that experience. I was also concerned that I’d be constantly dwelling on my hunger, but that hasn’t happened either. Ultimately, this shit isn’t that hard AND I’ve seen awesome results. I’m back to six visible abs (granted I still have a small belly, but fuck you, I love beer), and all I had to do was change the schedule of my consumption. And since it’s such an easy solution, I can actually see this being sustainable long-term.

For the sake of mentioning it, I did see an article that said skipping breakfast was bad because you ended up eating more at lunch. BUT they said that you’re only likely to eat about 20% more at lunch, so if your lunch and usual breakfast are the same size, you’re still eating less calories in the day. So… Whatevs.

Will I eventually get bored of this or read about how this is killing me in fun new ways? Maybe. But for now it’s working, so I’m sticking with it.  

Ayahuasca Part I: The Leadup

The organizer of a local Meetup Group I frequent sent out the usual reading material prior to the monthly meeting. Feel free to read the whole thing, but if you’re not inclined, it’s the manifesto of Mother Ayahuasca (the spirit of Ayahuasca), describing herself, her intentions, and her journey through the world. It offers information while still being some degree of readable, but I had a little trouble with it because I’m generally not one for indulging in that particular brand of whimsy.
I had known a little about Ayahuasca for years, but felt strongly that I had more to learn, so I was excited to see the headlining speaker at the Meetup, who was a Curandero (a healer who uses traditional remedies, also referred to as an Ayahuascero or Shaman). As with the reading, though, I was hesitant to throw my support in the ring for this guy and his practices just yet because my background is in the more modern psychological practices. For a long time, I held the “newer is better” belief, and it still lingered around in my brain coloring my view of older practices.
When I got to sit in front of him and hear him speak, I was impressed by his sense of humor, his down-to-earth attitude, his traditional college-level education in sociology, and the laid-back assuredness that can only come from 19 years of working with Ayahuasca. I asked him the requisite, “What kinds of questions do you ask people before you work with them?”
“The biggest questions we ask are, ‘Are you on any medications right now? Do you have a history of mental illness in your family? Have you ever been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder?’ Things like that.”
He also qualified it by saying, “That said, have I still given the medicine [Ayahuasca] to people on medications like lithium? Yes. Have I still given it to people with schizophrenia? Yes. But it’s all on a case-by-case basis after sitting down with them and discussing potential problems.”
He also said, “Usually when it’s time for you to do the medicine, the spirit of Ayahusca will call you to her.” And I definitely heard the call.
This guy had exactly the kind of practical approach I was looking for, plus I just fuckin’ liked the dude. Before we hugged each other goodbye, I overheard him mention the potential that he’d be doing a healing ceremony sometime before he headed back to Peru, so I connected with him on Facebook. He wouldn’t know the details for certain until he had confirmed enough participants to make it worth his while and had returned from the Sun Dance he was headed to (a Native American ceremony involving hours and hours of dancing).
Before he even left, he sent me a message confirming that it was happening, and providing some reading material on “la dieta,” which gives some fairly strict guidelines on the types of food you can eat leading up the ceremony. You were supposed to start it as much as two weeks in advance, but being me, I waited until like three days before. Scientifically, the point is to have very little in your stomach that might increase acidity, as Ayahuasca can be pretty hard on your digestive tract. Spiritually, the point was to eat a diet as close to that of our Peruvian predecessors as possible to maximize our ability to commune with the Spirit of Ayahuasca. So it was a lot of fruits and vegetables, and very little seasoning (if any).
I spent many of the days leading up to the ceremony reading about the science and tradition of this particular plant medicine and listening to personal accounts. Honestly, most of it was an attempt to assuage my growing nervousness about being ripped out of this world and shown the more sordid parts of my history. Every account I heard went something like, “There’s nothing particularly fun or enjoyable about the experience. Usually it’s actually pretty rough and it was one of the most trying things I’ve ever done. But it was absolutely, 100% worth it.” It was also described as, “ten years of traditional talk therapy crammed into two nights, with extensive vomiting and diarrhea thrown in.”
Really selling it, right? Anyway, a few days before the ceremony, right after I had really committed myself to the diet, I sat down to meditate. Once I was able to clear my mind, I saw a figure making its way toward me. I intuited that this was the Spirit of Ayahuasca. When she reached me, she placed her hand on my forehead, and I felt warmth and comfort and calmness. She saw me stirring about in my own mind, and took time out of her busy schedule to put me at ease. Nervousness lingered a little, but I was as ready as I’d ever be to take this journey.

Keto Day 10

I promise I’ll actually discuss my diet this time, but first… that was a close one. I just Matrix-dodged the pseudoscientific writings that use the legitimate scientific study of epigenetics as a cloaking device for mysticism (I’m not gonna say his name because unpopular though this blog may be, I’d still like not to be sued). Funnily enough, I downloaded his audiobook and wrote him off as an eloquent quack, but a pretty lady Doctor of Nursing candidate recommended him to me, so I gave it another shot (I have since looked up her school, and it is for-profit… not sayin’, just sayin’, know what I’m sayin’?).

First red flag: he says he’s a neuroscientist, but he earned his “Doctor of Chiropractic from Life University in Atlanta.” Granted, he may have studied neuroscience in his postdoctoral work, but I found very little Google Scholar evidence that pointed to any peer reviewed articles, and his Wikipedia page is mysteriously nonexistent. I’ll even go so far as to say that MAYBE the things he’s saying are accurate in that I can’t directly disprove them (they operate on a lot of separate assumptions that taken individually accurately represent the current understandings of our world), but dude… You can’t just go around calling yourself a neuroscientist. It’s not cool to be misleading like that.

Who knows? Maybe he’s right, and I’m wrong, and thinking positively and imagining yourself as a doctoral candidate in neuroscience is really all you need, then you’ll change your DNA on a molecular level and collapse all potential realities into the singular reality in which you actually are a neuroscientist. Personally, I’m a fan of the more traditional route of finding the people actually doing the scientific research at reputable institutions of learning, and joining them in their efforts until I know enough to help advance the field ethically. Crazy, I know. Whatever. Maybe more people are meditating because of his books, and that’s positive. I just hope people don’t use this strategy to avoid taking actionable steps toward the future they want for themselves. It’s a decent read (gave me some great short story ideas), but I don’t think I’ll be finishing it. I have too many books to read by real neuroscientists and psychologists to entertain myself with that dude’s work for any longer than I already have.

Okay, rant over.

I hate not exercising. I’m taking my dog on long walks and running up the eight flights of stairs each time (four times today) and doing my stretches, but I have so much excess energy! Luckily my rib pain is rather noticable, so I’m pretty quickly reminded why I’m not lifting weights, but it’s frustrating. Also the left side of my rib cage is definitely at a different angle than my right side, but I’m wondering if it was always like that because I haven’t been motivated to notice that shit at any other time in my life.

My body seems to be adjusting really well to this diet. The frequent urination thing has subsided, so I’m either getting better or not drinking enough water. Not sure which it is, but I feel great. The meat-and-dairy-heavy part is hugely enjoyable, and I’m definitely more lean than I was when I started this thing. I’ve been wondering how much of that is attributable just to the fact that I’ve been very conscious of my food consumption, though. I got one of my highest fat percentages today, but it’s still only 70% and I didn’t even hit my protein goal (108.8 grams). Thank goodness I’m not exercising, amiright?! *crazy laugh*

Tonight is the Night of The Irish. Wish me luck!

Keto Day 9

Today felt good. I got a decent amount of sleep, I had my morning cocktail (water, lemon, Himalayan salt – I’ll just be calling it the morning cocktail from now on and will specify when it inevitably switches back to alcohol at some point), walked the dog a bunch of times, got a haircut, got groceries, got a bunch of shit for my apartment, and got all my art mounted on my walls… Just a fuckin’ good day.

I opted out of jiu jitsu today. I think taking a week off is the best possible way for me to heal this rib thing. The pain still hasn’t subsided much, though admittedly, I’ve not been stretching enough. Maybe I’ll have time for that tonight before bed, but right now I feel like it’s unlikely.

My barber recommended I check out Bad Blood on Netflix. Ugh… Okay, maybe I’ll stretch while I watch that. Fine! I’ll stretch while I watch it! Damn.

Back in December my cousin crashed my car. He rear ended someone, and the front of the car got all:

He was physically fine and the car still ran well enough to get him home, so I was able to write off a lot of my initial concern. Also, the weather was starting to get shitty and I planned to leave it in the garage for most of the winter anyway, so that’s what I did.

When it warmed up I figured, “What the hell? Why not?” (if you’ve been following this blog, you might be noticing that this is a set of questions I ask myself often) and I started driving it again for errands and to/from work. After an extensive phone tag game with my cousin’s insurance company, they finally determined it would be covered under his plan, so I took it into a shop about a 9 minute walk from my apartment.

On Friday I was told that the car was totalled. I have a cornucopia of colorful emotions about this news. To sum up, I’m bummed because I really liked that car and I only got to drive it for like 10 months, but on the bright side, I’ll be able to get an SUV much more suitable to my dog’s size and energy level, and more capable of providing me with the sort of deep nature immersion I’ve been missing so dearly of late.

Unfortunately, I didn’t expect it to be totalled, and I left my 60lb weight vest in the trunk. Luckily I’ve stayed fairly fit, so the most annoying part of the walk back was actually the bag of sundries and not the vest. I clearly need to start incorporating it in my workouts again, though. That thing is awesome.

Oh and I’m still doing the keto thing. It’s going swimmingly.

Keto Day 8

Oof. I drank heavily this morning. I mean… It was when I got off work, but that was at 6am and the sun had risen, so… Three light beers accidentally opened by the bartenders, two or three much better beers I intentionally poured myself, and about four shots of Jameson. Obviously none of that is keto-friendly, but there isn’t much that feels cooler or more satisfying than drinking in a closed bar after a long night.

I was feeling particularly good when I got home, and here’s what I had to say (edited to account for drunk grammar mistakes):

Am I supposed to believe that the version of me that takes more reverence in the sun shining through the leaves of a tree nearby, or gives more leeway to the actions of my hyperactive dog, or laughs off the little things with greater ease is somehow a worse version of me because that version of me is related to my alcohol consumption? What if I truly am a better person as a result of the influence of alcohol? Do the negatives associated with alcohol consumption warrant a complete disregard for all of the positives that alcohol has had in my life previously and to this day? Are all of the relationships I’ve hardened in the kiln of inebriation meaningless?

All good questions, Drunk Sean. Definitely worth pondering.

Anyway, the hangover has not been enjoyable. The water with lemon juice and Himalayan salt helped, but didn’t completely remedy the queasiness and it’s done absolutely nothing about my extreme unwillingness to do things. I took my dog on a long walk, though, so I’m feeling pretty good about my accomplishments for today.

I’ve been watching a lot of Tom DeLauer’s videos to guide me through this keto thing, and he has one on keto-approved fast food items. Thank heavens for that video and Postmates because there’s no fucking way I’m cooking anything today. Tom repeatedly made the point that these fast food options should only be used in a pinch, but so far as I’m concerned that’s what I’m in. Five Guys is on the way and my dog and I are hunkered down in the cool, dark cave that is my apartment – him napping peacefully, me watching the new season of Jessica Jones and dreading getting up to go downstairs via elevator to get my food. It’s raining outside. I call bullshit on it being summer.

The barbacoa is from the 24 hour Mexican place nextdoor to the bar, but Chipotle’s is probably pretty similar.

Keto Day 5

I know, I stopped with the “What the hell? Why not?” thing. Honestly, I’m just feeling too lazy to type it out. What’s that you say? I just typed it out? Nobody asked you.

Today is my first day going to work and trying to use the things that they have there to fit my new keto mold. As you can see, my percentages are not what they were yesterday, so I’m going to have to try and remember to actually bring the food that I put into a Tupperware container from home. My dinner from last night was delicious, and the leftovers are still sitting in my fridge. Clearly I’m killing it today.

I’m not sure if I had a harder time moving all of the 30 cases of beer into the basement and 10 kegs into the walk-in cooler because I’m tired from Jiu Jitsu and potentially have a serious rib injury, or because I’m feeling some fatigue as a result of the diet. Either way, today was fairly difficult. Granted, those are difficult activities, but normally I don’t have as much trouble.

There’s all kinds of cool life stuff going on that has nothing to do with this keto diet, but I think I’m just going to keep you in suspense until this keto trial period has ended, and hit you with it all at once.

Keto Day 4 and The Irish

So yesterday I waited anxiously for my new frying pan to arrive (I gave away all my old ones), which I was particularly excited about because this is the first adult pan I’ve ever owned. It’s from Germany and it’s infused with ceramics and shit, and it matches my kitchen appliances. So I get a notice from Amazon saying the delivery driver is only a few deliveries away from my house, which is perfect because I was about to leave for work, and I had just enough time to put together the dinner that I had planned earlier in the day. I watched that delivery driver sit completely still about 3/4 of a mile from my house for upwards of 45 minutes, then I watched him get about a block away, then I watched him drive 2 miles north. No fucking pan. So I stuffed three slices of bacon, some cheese, and a handful of almonds into my face before running out the door to catch the train to work. I was not happy.

It was Tuesday, so it was the night of The Irish. About 500 of the drunkest 21-22 year old Irish exchange students Chicago has to offer cram themselves into the bar for Top 40’s music, $3 Bud Light pitchers, and $4 vodka drinks. These adult-sized children grab each other violently in jubilation, douse themselves (and me) in alcohol, scream, jump up and down, and occasionally throw some fists right up until they’re very unwillingly ushered out the doors at around 3:30am. I personally escorted five of them out early for repeatedly taking off shirts, general drunkenness, and aggressively grabbing me when I tried to break up a fight. They collectively leave various pieces of jewelry, hills of discarded plastic cups and pitchers, puddles of vomit, and a pond of beer in the center of the dancefloor a quarter inch deep and twelve feet across. After the last ones are out and the cleaning is done, I usually get out of there around 5 in the morning, hop on the train, and am home by 5:30. Then I walk my dog, so I’m not asleep until 6:30am Wednesday.

I woke up around 12:30 this afternoon. Still no fucking pan. I used a cheese stick and almond butter (separately) as bandaid solutions, plus the butter and the MCT oil in my coffee act as an appetite depressant, which got me through my morning of studying and my 3:30pm coffee meeting. When I got back home at 4:30? Frying pan! It was everything I had hoped it’d be. I very quickly fried up a couple eggs, ate some cottage cheese (I did not realize I bought the low fat kind until that moment) then ran out the door to catch the train to jiu jitsu.

I had small bouts of nausea and fatigue throughout the day, but it could’ve been a result of my night and my initial lack of real food in the day, or because I didn’t drink enough water today. I think my history of hangovers and my appreciation for discomfort make me uniquely adept at suffering through some of the difficulties associated with cutting carbs from your diet all at once. I saw a number of articles saying that weening yourself off slowly is preferred, but that’s just not my style.

Speaking of which, I’m more certain that I’ve caused some serious damage to my ribs, as it now hurts to do things like move or breath, but without health insurance, I’ll just have to ride this one out. Hopefully the keto diet is good for your bones. I’m sure I could Google that, but I’m comfortable sticking with ignorance and optimism for now.